Skip to main content

Full text of "Paul Morphy : his later life"

See other formats


i.  BUCK. 

i,  25  CENTS. 

/—  - 




C.  A.  BUCK. 

•     WILL.  H.   LYONS, 
JANUARY,   1902. 


C.   A.   Buck  of  Toronto,   Kansas  is  the 


author  of  this  interesting  and  comprehen- 
sive biography  of  Paul  Morphy. 

Mr.  Buck  has  gathered  from  authentic 
sources  facts  and  data  in  the  later  life  of 
Morphy  that  have  never  been  published. 
Several  years  were  devoted  to  securing  in- 
formation; a  month  was  then  spent  in  New 
Orleans  verifying  and  adding  to  his  store  of 
facts;  Morphy's  relatives  and  friends  giv- 
ing him  great  assistance.  The  matter  first 
appeared  in  a  prominent  Western  news- 
paper. With  Mr.  Buck's  consent,  I  now 
offer  it  in  its  present  form.  I  have  added 
a  portrait  of  Mr.  Morphy  from  a  photo- 
graph taken  immediately  after  his  return 
from  Europe,  also  his  autograph. 



The  chronicles  of  Chess,  amplified  as  it  is 
by  a  literature  richer  than  that  of  any  other 
game,  offer  to  the  student  nothing  to  com- 
pare with  the  career  of  Paul  Morphy,  the 
game's  greatest  master.  A  number  of  cir- 
cumstances conspire  to  make  Paul  Morphy 
an  unique  and  monumental  character  in 
chess  history.  The  two  salient  factors  of 
his  fame  were,  of  course,  his  wonderful 
chess  play  and  of  his  extreme  youth  during 
the  period  of  his  active  chess  career.  Inci- 
dentally, the  fact  that  he  was  the  only 
master  of  the  first  class  that  America  had 
produced  up  to  his  time  augmented  his 
prestige;  and  then,  too,  his  personality, 
marked  as  it  was  by  many  graces  of  the 
mind, added  lustre  to  his  fame.  His  later  life, 
during  which  he  met  with  many  disappoint- 
ments and  reverses,  finally  resulting  in  a 
mild  form  of  mania,  adds  a  melancholy  in- 


terest  to  his  career.  It  was  such  a  contrast 
to  what  his  j'outh  gave  promise  of  that  it 
seems  almost  tragic  in  its  aspects. 

It  is  curious  to  note  that  while  the  name 
of  Paul  Morphy  is  known  wherever  chess  is 
played,  and  most  every  practitioner  of  the 
game  is  familiar  with  his  chess,  yet  there 
are  few  players  of  to-day  who  know  of  his 
later  life, dating  from  his  return  from  Europe 
in  1859.  A  sketch  of  Morphy's  later  life, 
however  brief  and  fragmentary,  should  pro- 
perly be  prefaced  by  a  review  of  his  chess 
career,  not  only  in  the  interest  of  a  har- 
monious whole,  but  that  the  reader  may 
have  a  better  understanding  of  some  phases 
of  his  character  that  developed  with  the 
maturity  of  years. 

Paul  Morphy  was  born  in  New  Orleans, 
June  22,  1837.  He  learned  chess  at  the  age 
of  ten, graduated  at  Spring  Hill  college, near 
Mobile,  Ala.,  in  1854,  studied  law  and  was 
admitted  to  the  bar  in  April,  1857.  He  was 
gifted  with  a  wonderful  mind,  its  precocious 


powers  being  revealed  not  only  in  chess  but 
in  his  studies  as  well.  It  should  be  noticed 
that  before  he  was  twenty  years  old  he  had 
graduated  at  college  and  at  a  law  school, 
his  learning  embracing  fluency  in  four  lan- 
guages and  ability  to  recite  from  memory 
nearly  the  entire  Civil  Code  of  Louisiana. 

Morphy's  chess  practice  during  his  child- 
hood was  mainly  with  his  father  and  his 
uncle,  Ernest  Morphy.  He  gave  evidence 
of  a  keen  aptitude  for  the  game  and  was 
soon  able  to  defeat  them  both,  although  his 
uncle  especially  was  a  strong  player.  His 
natural  capacity  for  chess  was  shown  in  his. 
seeming  divination  of  the  proper  moves  in 
the  openings  before  he  had  ever  studied  them. 
Ernest  Morphy  wrote  to  Kieseritzky  in 
October,  1849,  that  his  nephew,  then  a  little 
over  twelve  years  old,  had  never  opened  a 
chess  treatise  but  that  "in  the  openings  he 
plays  the  'coups  justes'  asif  by  inspiration." 
As  a  matter  of  fact,  Morphy  did  not  at  any 
time  have  the  benefit  of  chess  books  in  the 


sense  of  keeping  a  number  of  them  at  hand 
for  study  and  reference.  What  few  books 
he  made  use  of  he  went  through  quickly  as 
possible,  and  after  having  mastered  the  con- 
tents he  gave  them  away.  James  McCon- 
nel,  the  elder,  of  New  Orleans,  has  a  book 
of  the  tournrment  of  1851  which  Morphy 
gave  him  when  fifteen  years  old.  The  book 
had  been  issued  but  a  short  time  when 
Morphy  secured  this  copy.  He  soon  played 
over  all  the  games  and  then  gave  it  to  his 
friend.  The  volume  is  especially  interesting 
on  account  of  numerous  marginal  notes  in 
Moprhy's  own  handwriting  by  which  he 
expressed  his  opinion  of  the  games  and  cer- 
tain moves.  As  is  well  known,  this  book 
was  edited  by  Staunton,  and  young  Morphy, 
like  a  child  of  genius,  made  a  captious  com- 
ment on  Staunton' s  chess  play  by  writing 
on  the  title  page  to  make  the  authorship 
read  like  this:  "By  H.  Staunton,  Esq., 
author  of  the  Hand-book  of  Chess,  Chess- 


Player's  Companion,  etc.  (and  some  devilish 
bad  games)." 

Paul  Morphy  first  showed  the  genius  of  a 
coming  master  in  the  three  games  he  played 
with  L,owenthal,  the  distinguished  Hunga- 
rian player,  in  May,  1850,  when  he  was  not 
quite  thirteen  years  old.  Of  these  games  he 
won  two  and  drew  the  other.  His  encount- 
ers, about  this  time,  with  Eugene  Rousseau, 
a  native  of  France  but  then  a  resident  of 
New  Orleans,  further  showed  a  surpassing 
mastery  of  chess  for  a  boy  just  entering  his 
teens.  Rousseau's  rating  as  a  chess  player 
may  be  judged  by  the  games  he  played  with 
Kieseritzky  on  even  terms,  of  which  there 
were  more  than  one  hundred,  the  latter  win- 
ning a  bare  majority.  Morphy  and  Rousseau 
played  over  fifty  games  during  the  years 
1849  and  1850,  and  Morphy  won  nine-tenths 
of  them. 

Regarding  the  games  with  Lowenthal, 
it  is  a  curious  circumstance  that  five  years 
after  Morphy 's  death  there  appeared  in  the 


Chess  Review  of  Havana  an  apochryphal 
game  wherein  Morphy  accepted  the  odds  of 
pawn  and  move,  the  claim  being  made  that 
the  game  was  the  third  one  of  the  scries 
played  with  L,owenthal  in  1850.  The  game 
had  previously  been  submitted  to  no  less  a 
chess  scholar  than  Max  L,ange  who  pro- 
nounced it  genuine.  There  were  several 
things,  so  it  was  claimed,  that  clothed  this 
bogus  game  with  verisimilitude,  chiefly  the 
fact  that  of  three  games  played  the  scores 
of  only  two  were  preserved.  Fortunately, 
however  for  Morphy 's  reputation,  Charles 
A.  Maurian,  than  whom  no  one  is  better 
qualified  to  pass  an  opinion  on  anything 
pertaining  to  Morphy,  has  proved  that  Mor- 
phy did  not  accept  odds  on  that  occasion. 
The  claim,  notwithstanding  Max  Lange's 
support  of  it,  has  been  utterly  exploded. 
From  his  thirteenth  to  his  twentieth  year 
Morphy  was  devoted  to  his  studies, but  dur- 
ing his  vacations,  which  were  spent  for  the 
most  part  at  home  in  New  Orleans,  he 


played  chess  with  the  strong  amateurs  of 
the  city  and  with  such  players  of  force  who 
were  sojourning  there.  Hence,  when  the 
first  American  chess  congress  convened  in 
New  York  in  October,  1857,  n^s  renown  as 
a  chess  player  had  preceded  him  and  he  was 
the  cynosure  of  the  chess  enthusiasts.  He 
won  the  first  prize  in  this  event,  and  after 
the  tournament  he  issued  a  challenge  to  play 
a  match  with  any  New  Vork  player  and 
yield  the  odds  of  pawn  and  move  This 
was  accepted  by  C.  H.  Stanley,  who  was 
one  of  the  foremost  players  of  his  time,  hav- 
ing defeated  Rousseau  in  a  match  by  a  score 
of  15  to  8 .  The  proposed  match  was  for 
seven  games  up,  but  Stanley  resigned  after 
five  games  had  been  played,  Morphy  win- 
ning four  and  Stanley  one.  This  challenge 
at  the  odds  of  pawn  and  move  was  also  lev- 
eled at  James  Thompson,  a  player  of  some 
force,  who  participated  in  the  main  tourna- 
ment of  the  congress.  Morphy  and  Thompson 
had  played  as  many  as  eight  games  together 


on  even  terms,  including  the  games  in  the 
tournament,  and  Morphy  had  won  all  of 
them,  yet  Thompson  was  not  prepared  to 
admit  that  the  disparity  of  pawn  and  move 
existed  between  them.  As  Thompson  would 
not  accept  the  odds  in  casual  play  Morphy 
sought  to  tempt  him  with  the  odds  in  a 
match.  Referring  to  this  matter  in  a  letter 
home  at  the  time  Morphy  observes  that  "he 
seems  to  fancy  that  it  is  beneath  his  dignity 
to  accept  odds  of  a  player  who  has  won 
every  game  contested  with  him.  My  im- 
pression is  that  I  can  give  him  the  odds  and 
make  even  games."  But  Thompson  did 
not  accept  the  challenge.  Attention  is 
called  to  the  chess  vanity  that  prevented 
Thompson  from  playing  Morphy  and  take 
the  odds  of  pawn  and  move,  because  after 
Morphy 's  return  from  Europe  eighteen 
months  later  he  defeated  Thompson  decis- 
ively at  the  odds  of  a  knight  !  Winning  this 
match  at  such  odds  against  a  player  of 


Thompson's  ability  is  regarded  by  some  as 
Morphy's  greatest  achievement. 

Before  leaving  New  York  Morphy  amend- 
ed his  challenge  to  the  New  York  players 
to  embrace  any  plaj^er  in  America.  The 
effect  of  this  was  to  offer  the  odds  of  pawn 
and  move  to  Louis  Paulsen  of  Iowa,  the 
second  prize  winner  of  the  congress — a  play- 
er who,  like  Morphy,  made  his  first  appear- 
ance before  the  chess  world  at  this  congress, 
and  who,  with  Morphy  eliminated,  would 
have  been  the  most  conspicuous  player  there. 
No  result  came  of  the  challenge  however. 

Morphy  w^ent  to  England  in  June,  1858, 
to  play  Staunton,  the  representative  of  Eng- 
lish chess,  but  failed  to  meet  him  in  a  match 
owing  to  default  by  Staunton.  They  did 
meet  however,  in  consultation  play,  Mor- 
phy's ally  being  Thomas  Wilson  Barnes  and 
Staunton' s  confere  being  Rev.  J.  Owen 
("Alter"  in  chess  circles).  Two  games 
were  played,  and  Morphy  and  Barnes  won 
both.  Morphy  played  a  match  with  L,ow- 


enthal,  and  won  by  a  score  of  nine  games  to 
three,  with  two  draws  ;  also  a  match  with 
Rev.  J.  Owen,  at  odds  of  pawn  and  move, 
winning  five  games  and  losing  none,  with 
two  draws.  In  France  he  played  three 
matches,  winning  against  Anderssen,  7  to  2, 
and  two  draws;  against  Harrwitz  5  to  2, 
and  one  draw;  Mongredien  7  to  o.  While 
in  Europe  Morphy  gave  four  seances  in 
blindfold  play,  at  Birmingham,  at  the  Lon- 
don Chess  club,  at  the  St.  George's  Chess 
club  (London),  and  at  Paris.  In  each 
contest  he  played  eight  games,  and  made 
the  unique  record  of  losing  only  one  game, 
although  several  were  drawn,  six  by  agree- 
ment. His  performance  at  Paris,  consider- 
ing the  strength  of  his  adversaries,  is  held 
by  some  critics  to  be  the  crowning  achieve- 
ment in  blindfold  play.  Morphy  never 
regarded  this  form  of  chess  seriously  ;  he 
remarked  one  time  that  "it  proves  nothing." 
He  held  to  the  opinion  that  a  player's 


strength  was  measured  by  his  play  against 
single  adversary  across  the  board. 

After  his  sojourn  in  Paris,  Morphy 
returned  to  London  and  played  many 
informal  games  with  the  strongest  English 
players,  notably  with  S.  S.  Boden  and 
Thomas  Wilson  Barnes.  Morphy  regarded 
Mr.  Boden  as  the  strongest  English  player. 

The  consensus  of  opinion  seems  to  be  that 
Morphy's  chief  claim  to  preeminence  in 
chess  rests  upon  his  victory  over  Anderssen, 
winner  of  the  world's  tournament  in  Lon- 
don in  1851,  and  admittedly  the  best  player 
in  Europe.  In  addition  to  the  match  games, 
Morphy  and  An4erssen  played  six  informal 
games,  of  which  the  Prussian  master  scored 
only  one.  The  informal  and  match  games 
made  a  total  of  seventeen  games  played  by 
these  masters, of  which  Morphy  won  twelve, 
and  Anderssen  three,  and  two  were  drawn. 
Such  a  result  was  so  overwhelming  as  to 
cause  consternation  in  European  chess  cir- 
cles, and  the  chess  writers  of  the  time 


sought  to  sustain  the  shattered  prestige  of 
their  master  by  explaining  that  Anderssen 
was  in  poor  health  and  out  of  practice  at 
the  time.  As  to  the  question  of  practice, 
Anderssen  himself  felt  that  he  could  play 
good  enough  to  win  the  match,  and  as  to 
his  health,  he  was  well  enough  to  travel 
from  Breslau  to  Paris  in  order  to  play.  On 
the  other  hand,  Morphy  had  been  ill  in  bed 
for  several  weeks  before  the  match,  was 
still  confined  to  his  bed  when  Anderssen 
arrived,  and  was  unable  to  sit  up  for  several 
days  thereafter.  His  physician  finally  per- 
mitted him  to  play  the  match  in  the  hotel 
and  thus  avoid  the  fatigue  incident  to  play- 
ing in  public  at  the  Cafe  de  la  Regence. 

It  was  while  in  Paris,  during  the  month 
of  December,  1858,  that  Morphy 's  so-called 
aversion  to  chess  began  to  manifest  itself, 
and  his  feelings  in  this  particular  became  so 
aggravated  in  later  years  as  to  create  the 
general  belief  that  he  grew  to  positively  dis- 
like the  game.  This  is  a  mistake.  His 


experience  in  European  chess  circles  was  a 
revelation  to  him.  It  should  be  remember- 
ed that  he  was  a  boy,  inspired  by  the  ardor, 
enthusiasm  and  high  ideals  of  youth  ;  and 
loving  chess  as  he  did,  he  wras  shocked  and 
disgusted  at  the  sordid  conventionalities  of 
chess  practice  that  was  in  vogue.  The  taint 
of  professionalism  was  repellant  to  him,  and 
when  he  saw  how  the  game  was  madt-  a 
business  of,  his  disgust  led  him  to  forsake 
the  haunts  of  chess.  Morphy's  idea  regard- 
ing the  morals  of  chess  is  not  suggested  for 
the  purpose  of  making  any  invidious  com- 
parisons, but  simply  to  establish  the  fact 
that  it  was  not  chess  that  he  grew  to  dislike, 
but  the  practice  of  it  by  those  who  would 
make  a  living  by  it.  As  Morphy  was  fated 
to  be  in  a  way  an  involuntary  victim  of  his 
fame  as  a  chess  player,  his  ideas  in  this  re- 
spect are  important  as  explaining  a  peculiar 
phase  of  his  character. 

Morphy   returned   to   America   in    May, 
1859,  and  was  greeted  with  all  the  enthu- 


siasm  due  a.  conquering  hero.  In  the  presence 
of  a  vast  assembly  in  the  chapel  of  the 
University  of  New  York  he  was  presented 
with  a  testimonial  in  the  shape  of  a  mag- 
nificent set  of  gold  and  silver  chess  men, 
with  board  to  match,  the  most  costly,  per- 
haps, that  were  ever  wrought.  The 
festivities  of  this  occasion  were  unhapily 
marred  by  a  dramatic  episode  that  showed 
Morphy's  growing  sensitiveness  to  the 
'  'profession  of  chess. ' '  Colonel  Charles  D. 
Mead,  president  of  the  American  Chess 
association,  was  chairman  of  the  reception 
committee  which  greeted  Morphy,  and  in 
his  address  of  welcome  he  made  an  allusion 
to  chess  as  a  profession,  and  referred  to 
Morphy  as  its  most  brilliant  exponent. 
Morphy  took  exception  to  being  character- 
ized as  a  professional  player,  even  by 
implication,  and  he  resented  it  in  such  a 
way  as  to  overwhelm  Colonel  Mead  with 
confusion.  Such  was  his  mortification  at 
this  untoward  event  that  Colonel  Mead 


withdrew  from  farther  participation  in  the 
Morphy  demonstration.  The  Union  Chess 
club  of  New  York  presented  Morphy  with 
a  superb  sterling  silver  wreath  as  a  token 
of  victory  over  all.  In  Boston,  also,  Mor- 
phy was  given  a  banquet,  at  which 
Longfellow,  Holmes,  Lowell,  Agassiz  and 
many  others  eminent  citizens  were  present 
to  tender  him  their  congratulations. 

So  great  an  interest  did  Morphy 's 
achievements  create  in  chess  in  this  country 
that  Robert  Bonner,  the  enterprising  pub- 
lisher of  the  New  York  Ledger,  started  a 
chess  column  in  his  paper,  and  secured  for 
it  at  once  widespread  popularity  by  engag- 
ing Morphy  as  chess  editor  at  a  salary  of 
$3.000  a  year,  paid  in  advance.  The  feature 
of  the  Ledger  column  was  the  publication 
of  about  fifteen  of  the  games  between  De  La 
Bourdonnais  and  MacDonnell, annotated  by 
Morphy.  Morphy  intended  to  publish  all 
the  games  between  these  two  masters,  as  he 
considered  them  the  finest  specimens  of 


chess  on  record. 

.Shortly  after  reaching  New  Orleans 
Murphy  issued  a  final  challenge,  offering  to 
give  the  odds  of  pawn  and  move  to  any 
player  in  the  world,  and  receiving  no  re- 
sponse thereto  he  declared  his  career  as  a 
chess  player  finally  and  definitely  closed,  a 
declaration  to  which  he  held  with  unbrok- 
en resolution  during  the  whole  remainder 
of  his  life. 

Morphy  made  arrangements  to  practice 
law  soon  after  his  return  to  his  native  city, 
but  his  fame  as  a  chess  player  was  so  over- 
shadowing that  it  seemed  people  were 
disinclined  to  regard  him  seriously  in  any 
other  capacity.  His  fellow  citizens  looked 
upon  him  simply  as  a  marvelous  chess 
player  and  nothing  more, and  this  so  irritated 
him  that  he  began  to  have  an  aversion  to 
playing  the  game  even  privately.  In  fact, 
he  became  so  morbid  on  the  effect  of  chess 
on  his  career  as  a  lawyer  that,  in  spite  of 
all  the  efforts  of  his  friends  and  relatives, 


he  gave  up  the  work  of  chess  editor  of  the 
Ledger,  and  the  contract  for  which  he  had 
been  engaged  was  completed  by  W.  J.  A. 
Fuller.  Morphy  was  associated  with  D.  W. 
Fiske  in  the  publication  of  the  American 
Chess  Monthly,  and  although  his  name  was 
carried  on  the  publication  as  one  of  its 
editors  during  the  five  years  of  its  exist- 
ence (1857-1861)  it  is  known  that  lie 
did  very  little  of  the  work. 

An  incident  may  here  be  related  as  show- 
ing how  Morphy  was  often  crucified  on  the 
cross  of  his  fame.  He  became  enamored  of 
a  wealthy  and  handsome  young  lady  in 
New  Orleans  and  informed  a  mutual  friend 
of  the  fact,  who  broached  the  subject  to  the 
lady,  but  she  scorned  the  idea  of  marrying 
a  '  'mere  chess  player. ' '  Small  wonder  that 
he  became  morbid  and  abjured  the  practice 
of  chess. 

During  the  year  1861  Morphj-  visited 
Richmond,  Va.,  seeking  to  obtain  an  ap- 
pointment in  the  diplomatic  service  of  the 


southern  confederacy,  but  he  did  not  suc- 
ceed and  returned  to  New  Orleans.  He 
was  there  when  the  city  was  captured  by 
the  federal  forces.  In  October,  1862,  he 
went  to  Havana  in  a  Spanish  man-of-war, 
the  Blasco  de  Garay,  and  after  remaining 
there  a  few  weeks  he  sailed  for  Cadiz.  From 
there  he  went  to  Paris  by  rail,  where  he  re- 
mained until  the  spring  of  1865,  when  he 
returned  to  New  Orleans.  In  1867  he  again 
went  to  Paris  and  remained  about  eighteen 

During  the  ten  years  following  his  return 
from  Europe  in  1859  Morphy's  practice  of 
chess  was  limited  to  casual  games  with  in- 
timate friends,  chiefly  with  Charles  A. 
Marian  of  New  Orleans  and  Arnous  de 
Riviere  of  Paris.  It  is  thought  the  total 
number  of  games  played  during  these  ten 
years  would  not  exceed  75.  The  complete- 
ness of  his  abandonment  of  the  game  may 
be  inferred  from  the  fact  that  although  the 
great  International  Chess  Tournament  of 


1867  was  going  on  in  Paris  during  his  third 
visit  to  that  city  he  never  once  visited  the 
scene  of  its  exciting  and  splendid  contests. 
Morphy  played  absolutely  no  chess  with 
anybody  after  the  year  1869. 

The  mental  derangement  which  over- 
whelmed Morphy 's  brilliant  mind  and 
clouded  his  later  life  is  a  curious  chapter 
in  his  career,  and  has  given  rise  to  no  little 
wonder  among  chess  players  as  to  the  cause 
and  conditions  of  his  mania.  Without  go- 
ing into  the  details  of  his  mental  troubles, 
two  conclusions  stand  out  very  clearly, 
namely,  that  chess  in  no  way  contributed 
to  it,  and  that  the  reverses  he  experienced 
in  his  material  affairs  did.  The  latter  con- 
clusion is  borne  out  by  the  fact  that  his 
mania  took  the  form  of  a  delusion  that  his 
brother-in-law,  Sybrant  by  name,  adminis- 
trator of  his  father's  estate,  had  defrauded 
him  of  his  legacy.  So  intensively  did  this 
delusion  dominate  him  that  his  perverted 
mind  conjured  up  machinations  on  the  part 


of  Sybrant  to  poison  him  in  order  to  quiet 
his  proposed  action  at  law  to  recover.  Mor- 
phy  was  perpetually  in  fear  of  being 
poisoned,  and  as  a  precaution  would  eat 
nothing  except  at  the  hands  of  his  mother 
or  his  unmarried  sister,  Helena.  This  pro- 
posed action  against  his  brother-in-law 
absorbed  Morphy's  attention  for  many 
years;  being  a  lawyer  himself  he  busied 
himself  with  the  details  of  his  suit,  and  was 
much  about  the  law  courts  in  consequence. 
It  should  be  stated,  however,  that  Mr. 
Sybrant  discharged  the  obligations  of  the 
trust  entirely  to  the  satisfaction  of  the  court, 
which  is  a  matter  of  record. 

It  is  difficult  to  fix  the  time  when  Mor- 
phy's mind  was  noticeable  unbalanced. 
When  the  second  American  chess  congress 
was  held  in  Cleveland  in  1871  strenuous 
efforts  were  made  to  secure  Morphy's 
attendance,  but  he  persistently  declined  all 
invitations  that  were  urged  upon  him. 
Rumors  of  his  malady  were  abroad  then  ; 


some  people  who  were  in  a  position  to  know 
aver  that  his  mania  was  perceptible  even 
before  that  date.  Morphy  was  never  legally 
declared  insane;  he  was  so  harmless  and  reti- 
cent, and  lived  in  such  quite  retirement  at 
his  home,  that  there  was  no  need  of  putting 
him  under  any  restraint.  In  June,  1882, 
his  family  did  endeavor  to  place  him  in  a 
sanitarium  in  the  hope  that  he  would  be 
benefited.  The  institution  was  called  the 
Louisiana  Retreat,  located  near  New  Or- 
leans, and  under  the  patronage  of  the  Cath- 
olic church.  Those  in  the  party  that 
accompanied  Morphy  were  his  mother  his 
brother  Ed\vard,  and  his  intimate  friend 
C.  A.  Maurian.  When  they  reached  the 
asylum  Morphy  protested  against  his  deten- 
tion with  such  evident  sanity,  and  discussed 
his  civil  rights  with  such  a  learned  knowl- 
edge of  the  law,  that  the  Sisters  in  charge 
were  afraid  to  assume  the  responsibility,  and 
he  was  taken  back  home. 

During  all    these    years    of    misfortune 


Morphy  still  loved  chess,  and  kept  run  of 
the  current  news  of  the  game  down  to  his 
death.  But  he  was  annoyed,  and  at  times 
even  enraged,  at  the  mention  of  it.  This 
may  seem  rather  contradictory  but  it  should 
be  remembered  that  his  experience  and 
environments  were  peculiar.  It  may  be 
worth  while  to  relate  an  episode  that  dis- 
closes Morphy 's  feelings  regarding  chess 
better  than  anything  else.  Under  the 
pretense  of  assisting  him  with  his  suit 
against  his  brother-in-law,  a  lawyer  of  New 
Orleans  examined  the  papers  in  the  case  and 
gave  his  opinion  in  Morphy 's  favor.  He 
gained  confidence  to  such  an  extent  that 
Morphy  ate  a  piece  of  rock  candy,  first 
seeing  that  the  lawyer  himself  had  eaten  a 
piece.  The  lawyer  then  suggested  that  he 
would  like,  at  some  convenient  time,  to  play 
a  game  of  chess  with  him.  Morphy  seemed 
alarmed;  made  sure  that  no  one  was  in 
hearing,  and  then  replied  :  "I  dearly  love 


chess,  but  not  now,  not  now — when  we  win 
the  case." 

When  Steinitz  was  in  New  Orleans  in 
1883  he  persistently  tried  to  see  Morphy, 
and  Morphy  persistently  avoided  him. 
After  four  failures  to  effect  an  interview 
between  these  two  celebrated  chess  pla\rers, 
friends  of  Morphy  finally  secured  the  prom- 
ise to  meet  Steinitz  on  condition  that  chess 
would  not  even  be  alluded  to.  This  condi- 
tion was  adhered  to,  and  the  interview 
lasted  about  ten  minuses,  but  was  mutually 
embarrassing  on  account  of  the  forbidden 
subject.  When  Morphy  was  first  approach- 
ed by  a  friend  in  regard  to  meeting  Steinitz, 
the  remark  was  made  that  "Steinitz  is  in 
the  city,"  to  see  what  effect  it  would  have 
on  Morphy.  He  replied:  "I  know  it,"  and 
after  a  pause  he  continued.  "His  gambit 
is  not  good."  There  is  a  world  of  meaning 
in  these  words  to  one  who  is  familiar  with 
all  the  particulars  to  which  the  words  may 
apply.  Morphy  was  then  asked  if  he  kept 


a  board  and  men  at  hand  to  play  over  games, 
and  he  admitted  lie  did,  but  he  could  not  be 
induced  to  talk  further  on  the  subject  of 

It  is  said  by  those  most  qualified  to  speak 
that  Morphy's  mutual  derangement  did  not 
impair  his  chess  powers  in  the  least;  that  at 
any  time  during  his  later  years  he  could 
have  played  with  all  his  pristine  brillianc}r 
and  accuracy. 

When  Dr.  Zukertort  was  in  New  Orleans 
in  1882  he  met  Morphy  on  Canal  street  and 
handed  him  his  card.  Morphy  put  the 
card  in  his  pocket  without  looking  at  it  and 
then  greeted  the  doctor  by  name  speaking 
in  French.  Zukertort  was  amazed,  and 
exclaimed:  "Why,  how7  is  it  you  know  my 
name  without  looking  at  my  card  ?  And 
how  did  you  know  I  speak  French? "Morphy 
satisfied  his  curiosity  by  remarking:  "I  met 
you  in  Paris  in  1867,  and  you  spoke  French 
then. ' ' 

Paul  Morphy  died  suddenly  at  his  home 


in  New  Orleans  July,  10  1884.  He  had 
indulged  in  a  long  walk  during  the  heat  of 
the  day,  and  on  his  return  home  went  to 
the  bath  room  to  bathe.  It  is  supposed  the 
shock  of  the  cold  water  on  his  overheated 
body  caused  congestion  of  the  brain,  for  he 
was  found  dead  in  the  bath  tub  shortly 

After  his  death  his  trophies  were  sold  at 
auction.  The  silver  service,  consisting  of 
a  pitcher,  four  goblets  and  a  salver,  being 
the  first  prize  won  at  the  chess  congress, 
was  bought  for  $400  by  Mr.  Samory  at  New 
Orleans;  the  set  of  gold  and  silver  chessmen 
was  taken  by  Walter  Denegre,  acting  for 
the  Manhattan  Chess  club  of  New  York, 
price  $1,550;  and  the  silver  wreath  sold  for 
$250,  also  bought  by  Mr.  Samory. 

An  engaging  pastime  of  chess  writers  and 
critics  of  late  years  has  been  that  of  com- 
paring the  latter-day  masters  with  Morphy, 
but  so  far  the  most  flattering  comparisons 
have  never  exceeded  that  of  equality  with 


the  immortal  Morphy.  None  have  claimed 
that  he  has  been  surpassed  by  his  success- 
ors. It  is  safe  to  venture  the  opinion, 
however,  that  a  great  majority  of  chess 
players  award  Morphy  the  palm  of  superior- 
ity over  players  of  all  times.  Certainly, 
taking  into  consideration  the  fact  that  he 
was  in  no  sense  a  chess  student,  that  he  re- 
garded the  game  solely  as  a  pastime  and 
himself  as  an  amateur;  not  forgetting  his 
extreme  youth  when  he  achieved  his  won- 
derful victories,  nor  the  fact  that  his  chess 
career  covered  a  period  of  less  than  two 
years — remembering  all  these  facts  in  addi- 
tion to  his  sublime  chess  play  and  then 
comparing  him  with  the  seasoned  veterans 
of  the  checkered  field,  who  have  devoted 
years  to  the  analysis  and  practice  of  the 
game,  it  would  not  seem  beyond  the 
bounds  of  moderation  and  reason  to  regard 
Paul  Morphy  as  the  greatest  chess  player 
that  ever  lived.